Sound — 7
Thrice are an evolutionary band, one who probably couldn't repeat an album if they tried, so I'll begin with a disclaimer: change is easy to accept with Thrice but it takes a significant amount of time for their music to expand and blossom in your mind. You may remember my unending praise for their last work, The Alchemy Index' (though I am clearly not a Thrice fan for giving their live album a 6.5/10, thanks guys), but something about the hurriedly-released new effort Beggars' didn't rub me the right way on the first listen. It seemed to have taken the mature' route one step too far at the expense of the sort of large-scale majesty fans are used to hearing, and ended up as the sort of music that is far more fun to play than it is to listen to. Of course, digging deeper is a necessity if you are to find out where a new Thrice album fits alongside their others, and this time you might have to trade your shovel for something a little more substantial; not for the hunting of hidden treasures as was the case with Vheissu' or The Alchemy Index', but to find what gives the album a place amongst those hallowed halls. Through their ever-appreciated studio blogs and videos, the band gave fans some ideas in advance of what the album might sound like by saying they were trying to give Beggars' a more energetic, heavy sound after the sleepy' feel of the last two albums. Nobody could be blamed for interpreting this as a way of saying it would be a return to roots' album, but The Illusion Of Safety' Pt. 2 this is not. In fact, in places it's just as mellow as any of their other recent albums, if not more so. The difference is mostly made by drummer Riley Breckenridge who pins down the clean guitars and whimsical vocals with distinctive beats which perhaps try a little too hard to put snare hits in unconventional places. These tracks carry the feel of a rock n roll recording themselves through the transparent and unglamorous production, but the heavier, faster songs put that across musically too; Talking Through Glass' and All The World Is Mad' have been gritted with the salt of the blues but immediately the mind begins sketching links to The Artist In The Ambulance' in their sense of urgency. Despite the band-in-practice-space method of songwriting, the guitar work in particular sounds almost like the Earth' disc would have if it had been written for the standard rock band. On the topic of the rock band', the organic sound of the album can also be attributed to the surprising absence of instruments outside of that setup; there's minimal tinkering outside of the occasional keyboard or shaker and that keeps proceedings simple, as was the intention.
Lyrics — 7
The highly self-contained nature of The Alchemy Index' wiped Thrice's musical and lyrical slates clean in terms of what might come next, but the restrictions of the four elements helped Dustin Kensrue write some deeply moving and beautifully written lyrics and his total freedom this time has left the lyrics somewhat mundane in comparison. The August 11th release date is a response to a leak and is only for the digital version, so there are no pages from which Dustin's words can spring, but even when listening lines and phrases don't often jump out of the track, Circles' being a fine exception. Maybe it's the dull artwork, but the majority of the songs don't strike me as being particularly appealing in a literary way, and that limits how well the songs' messages can really be heard and understood. Those messages vary from the stockpiled (All The World Is Mad', Doublespeak') to the fresh and compelling (Beggars', Circles') but as always Kensrue's natural linguistic flair means everything works nicely so the best ideas are written out to their fullest and the least inspiring topics are always worth listening to, at least. The biggest surprise about Beggars' in the vocal department is the fact that it is the first Thrice album ever to feature absolutely no screaming whatsoever. That influence can be heard in the growly inflection on songs like At The Last' but unfortunately the music just doesn't call for his domineering roars as it never reaches that level of intensity. Most of Kensrue's singing is in part an extension of his performances on the Earth' disc and his solo folk album, Please Come Home' and this compliments the guitar parts of Teppei Teranishi and Kensrue himself excellently. Sadly, not all of the softer songs on the album have been given strong and memorable melodies which leaves them as indicators only of their potential, and not their perfection.
Overall Impression — 7
The term thinking man's music' is the sort which is generally seen to be positive as egos can flourish under the guise of the thinking man', but in this case the term applies in a different way. It's a good album to take in and analyse, but cannot just be put on and felt from start to finish as an experience. Highlights like The Weight' and In Exile' are truly wonderful but some of the other songs are a little too dreary to keep things interesting and collectively don't have enough impetus to flesh out the whole album. Since that first listen my view of the album has been through many different stages, I've dug into each corner and every aspect of the sound and I've searched for a full understanding which puts Beggars' up there with the band's best work but it hasn't been found yet. Hopefully in time things will begin to unfold but the truth of this record can't be that far-removed from its face value; a good album, for what it is, which has some great songs but is ultimately a disappointment.